As of January 7, 2013, this website will serve as an archive site only. For news, reviews and a connection with audience and creators of theatre all over the country, please go to The Charlebois Post - Canada.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

News: Paul Van Dyck off to New York

Paul Van Dyck (who is directing a production of Equus set for Montreal in the Spring), will be performing his solo Paradise Lost at New York City's Frigid Festival. (February 23-March 6) Paradise will be performing at the Under St. Mark's venue. (Submitted by Barbara Ford)

The Upstage Interview: Director Liz Valdez

Today we are beginning a new CharPo weekly feature, fruit of our partnership with Upstage: Theatre on Radio (CKUT). Each week we will be sharing with you the highlights of an interview done by an Upstage contributor with one of Montreal's theatre practitioners.

CKUT Upstage contributor and CharPo senior contributor Sarah Deshaies conducted an interview with Director Liz Valdez. Below is an abridged version of the interview transcribed by Estelle Rosen, CharPo Editor-in-Chief.

Humans is a collection of fifteen short stories. Asked to sum up Humans
into a  couple sentences, Valdez sees it as a look into the human spirit…the human condition, the thing that links us all, encompassing the dark or light that lives within human nature. There is beauty in the fact we have both dark and light in us. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

News: Tyrone Benskin to run for NDP

Black Theatre Workshop artistic director, Tyrone Benskin, will be running for the NDP in the next federal election. 

Read the Canadian Press Story here.

Sunday Feature: Danny Brochu and Stones in His Pockets

Danny Boy
In Stones In His Pockets, actor Daniel Brochu taps into his roving Irish - and then some

by David King

After the success of Sidemart Theatrical Grocery's Haunted Hillbilly during the last few seasons, it's nice to see actors Daniel Brochu and Kyle Gatehouse reunite with director Andrew Shaver for Stones In His Pockets this week at Centaur. In a play where fifteen characters are constantly in flux by only two performers, Brochu and Gatehouse already have the right chemistry to make it work, while Shaver, fully trained in comedy and clown and with a background at Lecoq, is the right man to help the actors develop multiple personas. 

"Because we had a long rehearsal process we were able to do some animal explorations for this," says Brochu, "not to create animals obviously but the idea of that shadow animal incorporated into people's human qualities. He [Shaver] was great at encouraging us to go in all kinds of different directions."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ford's Focus: Murray Napier

Murray Napier

Pedagogue and Pioneer

In founding the John Abbott Theatre Department and sharing his zeal for the arts with his students for 35 years, Napier has contributed waves of professionals that support every facet of the performing arts in Canada and the United States.

By Barbara Ford

Where would we be without those diligent people who, driven by their vision and passion, take it upon themselves to carve out something from virtually nothing, re-shape our reality to create something we didn’t even know we needed until there it is … a bright new shiny thing? Murray Napier is one such visionary. 

Born in Halifax, Napier received his higher education in English studies at St. Mary’s University where his fascination with theatre took root, dabbling in a workshop program that by his final year, he headed up. He came to Montreal for his post-graduate studies, majoring in literary drama at McGill.  After graduation, he experimented with this and that: courted the corporate world for a spell, taught in New Brunswick and at a high school, but eventually landed a teaching job at the McDonald Campus of McGill, where he taught English to both the Agriculture and Education students. 

In 1971 when John Abbott College was formed, Napier stayed on at the campus as the first Chair of the English Department.  His first order of business was to form a Theatre Department.  Napier didn’t know anyone in the theatre world that he could approach to help him develop the new program so “when actor Stanley Mallough walked in the door to apply, I hired him on the spot!” laughs Napier.   In those first years, the two shared the teaching equally, allocating 50% of their time to English and the other 50% to theatre.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Friday Five, January 28, 2011

Five Things You Should Be Aware of When Scheduling Your Premiere
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I have often wondered: why can't theatre companies organize their openings for the real world? Companies often get angry when they do not have all the critics or even a full house for their premiere. Here are five things they must keep track of before setting the date. 

- TV galas. Yes, yes, yes, it's theatre and therefore above all that glitzy crap, but real people and critics also love the silliness of the Tonys, Golden Globes and Oscars. Luckily, most of these fall on a Sunday, but you should be aware of them nevertheless. Next day coverage of local winners of big awards can squeeze out theatre.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Joe Louis: An American Romance

Ardon Bess as Joe Louis (Photo courtesy of Infinitheatre)

When one fight should have been enough
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Infinitheatre's production of David Sherman's new play, Joe Louis: An American Romance, which opened tonight, is a perfect symbol of Montreal English-language theatre. It is at once quite thrilling and profoundly dismaying.

The central problem of the evening was that, simply, this was not a play ready to be produced—but produced it was in a pretty but, very often, awkward presentation directed by Guy Sprung. Again, simply, Sprung and his large cast did not know what to do with this play in this space. Elements of the evening—for instance, the beautifully staged interplay of actor and archival film—simply underlined what had gone missing in the rest of the evening: pace. There were very long moments of talking which had to be filled as well and everyone seemed to be at their wits' end as to how to do this because that talking was...well...unscintillating.

News: Fennario going to Stratford

Infinitheatre's production of David Fennario's Bolsheviki, directed by Guy Sprung and starring Robert King, is going to Stratford.

Read the details here.

CharPo's Picture of the Week, January 27, 2011

Ardon Bess (l) and Samuel Platel in David Sherman's Joe Louis: An American Romance opening tonight at Infinitheatre  (photo courtesy Infinitheatre)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: A Flea in Her Ear

Kyle McIlhone and Alexandra Moss in Flea (Photo credit: Diane Moon)

Love & Farce
By Estelle Rosen

Farce has never been one of my favorite genres. I’m hooked on dramas. I think I fell in love with farce tonight. Go figure! I laughed so loud at The Dawson Theatre production of George Feydeau’s A Flea In Her Ear, thank goodness my seat mate laughed as loud as me! 
The expected elements of farce, absurd situations, confusion, mistaken identity were all there in full force. 

Set in 1907 at the height of  the Belle Epoque, Raymonde, after many years happily married, suspects her husband, Victor Emmanuelle, is having an affair. To test him she sends him a lurid invitation from an ‘anonymous’ admirer to meet at Hotel Coq d’Or.

Wednesday's What's On, January 26, 2011

by Estelle Rosen

Events, over the next days, to add to your agenda

5pm - Sunday Night Improv Workshop

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

News: Johanna Nutter's Pregnant Brother in Ottawa

Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) in Ottawa is receiving Johanna Nutter's MECCA-Award winning play, My Pregnant Brother. 

Read the Ottawa Citizen article.

After Dark, January 25, 2011

by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Media in this city is in chaos again.

This week the Gazette said goodbye to another group of writers, sending them off with a golden handshake and leaving the space they took up in the newspaper to the wires and to Canwest-Global HQ to fill.

Meanwhile, the battle at Hour Magazine was being fought in the pages of the aforementioned paper with Voir Inc. owner Pierre Paquet offering his usual smug, fat-cat crap, telling, in essence, the Gaz to mind it's own business as this was an internal matter. Even while Paquet was said to the Gaz that the rumours of Hour's demise was "Facebook-generated bullshit," Facebook and Twitter were both exploding with discussion of what was or was not actually going down at the weekly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: Kiss of the Spider Woman

Rehearsal shot from Kiss of the Spider Woman with Sarah Jestadt (unmasked) (photo credit:  Eric Chad)

By Rachel Zuroff

Kiss of the Spider Woman, put on by the McGill Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society, is a tour de force.  The AUTS has a history of putting on successful shows, including last year’s Cabaret, and Kiss of the Spider Woman continues their winning streak.

Sunday Feature: Stacey Christodoulou on Translation

Transmutation of Soul
"As a director, I believed that my role in this process was to be the devil’s advocate, to question every word that did not sound quite right"

By Stacey Christodoulou

Translating is more than a transformation of words; it is a transmutation of soul.  Taking an original dramatic work and making it understandable in another language means not only changing words but weaving them in such a way that the play’s essential meaning is illuminated and preserved. For The Other Theatre’s piece, Recovery by Greg MacArthur, Emmanuel Schwartz graciously took up this task. As a director, I believed that my role in this process was to be the devil’s advocate, to question every word that did not sound quite right – whether it be in meaning, rhythm, or in tone. I knew that with a translation of great feeling and intelligence that it would be a stimulating conversation. So after the first draft, I pulled out the fat dictionary and the even fatter thesaurus at the local library and went to work – checking, re-checking proposing alternatives and asking for explanations.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ford's Focus: Andrew Cuk

Andrew Cuk in Lit Moon's Hamlet

A Classic Innovator
by Barbara Ford
New York Bronx-boy, Andrew Cuk, is in his eighth year as a Montrealer living on the Plateau and commuting to the West Island campus of John Abbott College where he teaches theatre history to four semesters of both the technical and performing theatre strains.  The hybrid Italian-Basque-Slovenian left New York in 1988 (though still visits family often) and after a stint in Arkansas and a 5-year span in Seattle, he went back to school for a Master degree in Dramatic Arts in Bellingham, Washington.  He then headed to the Golden State to pick up his Ph.D. at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

It was there that the current Playwrights’ workshop Montreal Board President met John Blondell and the Lit Moon Theatre CompanyHe ended up staying there for 20 years doing the kind of theatre he loves but wasn’t sure other people wanted to see, that is not until he met Blondell.  Cuk is drawn to non-linear story-telling, preferring more experiential theatre that defies time and space.  “I like messy boundaries. At first, I thought I was alone but Lit Moon gave me hope that there were other people out there who would appreciate what I saw in my head.” 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Feature: Liesl Barrell, January 21, 2010

Confessions of a Grown Up Digital Drama Queen
By Liesl Barrell

In a new monthly segment for CharPo, I’ll be profiling theatre artists and companies to investigate their digital marketing strategies, online lives and incorporation of new media in production. 

In this first instalment, I’ll take you on a little trip through my twin passions (stage and web) and give you an idea of where this Digital Drama segment will be heading.

People are often surprised by what seems to them like a strange move for me, from theatre into the digital marketing world. When asked about it, I like to discuss how all communications stem from the oral tradition, and by extension, the ancient art of the stage. Or that the phrase “virtual reality” was first coined by avant garde theatre theorist Antonin Artaud

This often does little to lower their eyebrows, as I suspect the reasons they think of the two spaces in binary opposition are the same that bring them together for me: old or new, media is what I’m passionate about. 

Perhaps the first time I heard the siren call of the series of tubes was in 2007, when I watched a piece on one of my all-time favourite multi-platform marketing campaigns: The HBO Voyeur Project. It was launched by BBDO (the real life inspiration for Mad Men’s Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, as well as their fictional onscreen rival) in partnership with a number of smaller agencies, vendors and media buyers. 

Watch the campaign summary video above and you’ll immediately notice the stunning theatricality of the silent vignettes that are at the heart of this award-winning campaign. 

The Friday Five, January 21, 2011

Five Books About Theatre that are Fun Reads
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Peter Hall's Diaries Gossipy, funny, sad and enormously instructive not only in directing terms but also in terms of administration, grantsmanship and handling non-theatre folk. Sir Peter has done it all.

Prick Up Your Ears by John Lahr. 
The enormously readable story of Joe Orton, a hero of mine and perhaps one of the greatest playwrights in our language. Orton, Gay when it was illegal, was a rogue who kept copious diaries (referenced here) and had a twisted and, finally, fatal relationship with a loser.

The CharPoll results, January 21

We asked you to tell us which of the WildSide Shows you saw made the grade. Sixty-three of you took the time to vote and four shows were big with you (in no particular order):
Duplicity Girls
I am I
...the itsy bitsy spider...
Hypnogogic Logic

Check out this week's poll which asks you to tell us where you are going to spend your theatre dollars this winter.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


The Charlebois Post is looking for a Fringe 2011 participant who would will write us a short weekly essay about their road to the event at the end of May. Please contact us if you're interested.

Review: The Oresteia: Rewritten

by Sarah Deshaies

There’s something cut and dried about Greek theatre: tragedy befalls a group of people people, usually a family, the gods get involved, and loads and loads of people die fraught, over-the-top deaths. Much like reality tv, it’s a loud, messy trainwreck - with gods playing the roles of conniving producers, manipulating the mere mortals.

The Oresteia: Rewritten breathes modern life into the ancient myth of Aeschylus’s The Oresteia, the Greek side of the story in the Trojan War. The Oracle predicts that Orestes will kill his mother one day, a price to pay for his father’s victory in the Trojan War.

McGill student Max Zidel crafts a piece that cuts straight to the heart of the humans caught in a deadly game of sacrifice and oracle predictions. When Electra (Annie MacKay) speaks of the grief that comes from having your mom murder your dad because he sacrificed your big sister to win a war and defend your country’s honour, it’s in terms anybody wrestling with loss can understand.

CharPo's Picture of the Week, January 20, 2010

Poster art for Absurd Person Singular, running now at the Rialto (see our review by Elizabeth Johnston)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday's What's On, January 19, 2011

(ED: Today we're inaugurating a new weekly section of CharPo. Each Wednesday we'll be helping you organize your next days' outings. If you wish to be added to Wednesday's What's On, forward your information to us)

by Estelle Rosen

Thurs. Jan. 20
Seminar with artist Martha Wilson and curator Peter Dykhuis 
Reservation necessary at the Gallery. 
Galerie Leonard and Bina Allen, Concordia

Sun. Jan. 23
A celebration of poetry
Performances by Catherine Kidd, Kaie Kellough, Fortner Anderson. Hosted by Ian Ferrier
Doors open 8pm – Show 9pm
Casa del Popolo, 4873 boul. St. Laurent.
$5 admission fee

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Person: A day in the life of designer David Perreault Ninacs

(ED: David Perreault Ninacs is one of our finest lighting designers—his most recent work was Medea for Scapegoat Carnivale—and teaches design at the National Theatre School. CharPo is enormously pleased to be sharing his essay on one day in his life.)

Monument National; 4:30pm; National Theater School of Canada (N.T.S.);
 2nd year students’ Central project, day number eight.

“Central’’, as it is commonly called, is the major project that fills the second year’s student syllabus for the production program at N.T.S. It consists of every student in the class having to be director, designer (sound, lights, costume, set and props), production manager, technical director, stage manager, sound and lighting board operator. Everyone changes their role every day for number of days that there are students in the class. ‘’MADNESS ! ‘’ you might say and correct you would be. The project is designed to help the student understand every part of the creation process and its production as well as to help her or him learn about the pressures that accumulate on everybody’s shoulders during the course of the aforementioned processes.

After Dark, January 18, 2011

The "d-word"—when discussion goes missing
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois

WildSide is done and we, at CharPo, had a very good time there. The site itself grew with the festival's popularity and this week, before the end of seven weeks of existence for us, we passed the magical 10,000 page-view mark.

Much to be happy about but while we were all partying, two stories in the last weeks drew my attention and perturbed me as they should perturb all artists.

On the face of it one of them would seem fairly anodyne: the banning of an old pop song from the airwaves because the song lyric included the word "faggot." (Anecdote: an editor of mine at the Mirror once told me that I could not use that word in print unless I was one so I outed myself to her.)

The other controversy is a little more important because it involves a classic work of literature, one that has literally changed lives and, arguably, the course of history. The work is Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I have only recently reread the work. I was given it and Tom Sawyer in heavily expurgated aimed-at-kids editions when I was a boy. The adult read was an eye-opener. I was not at all horrified by the use of the word "nigger" simply because literature from that age and that place—even works with good intentions—is chockablock with words like that, not to mention stereotypes we would now deem highly offensive (Uncle Tom's Cabin's Topsy, anyone?) if they were written in the present day.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Barbara Ford once again delivers a fine-lined portrait of an artist, this time Elsa Bolam, THE PIONEER. Bolam, one of the founders of Centaur Theatre, was also the creator of Geordie Productions, one of the most important theatres for young audiences in the country. 

Stephen Vincelli has worked all sides of the annual production of A Christmas Carol at the Rialto, to find himself directing this year. In COMBINING WORLDS he explains the process that brought to leading the pack.

Keith Waterfield and his accomplice, Alain Mercieca, started out by saying, "Let's fuck and do art." And so was born HOW TO ENTER VAUDEVILLE, Waterfield's first-person description of the coming together of forces to create The Waterfield Follies.

another of her fine-lined portraits of an artist who didn't just swan onto the stage from theatre school. Ms Lemieux paid her dues, notably in the service industry in New York City, before a series of small venue shows and, finally, critical acclaim in Centaur's Good People.

Djanet Sears calls herself the daughter of Lorraine Hansberry, and in her NOTES OF A COLOURED GIRL she shares her reasons for writing for theatre with breath-taking and invigorating style.

It is not a role you take on lightly, but - the way actor Chris Moore tells it - he and the artistic director of Persephone, in Montreal - just asked ONE REAL QUESTION: WHY NOT? when deciding on Hamlet. In Moore's fascinating first person, he talks about the very beginning of the process of prepping for this magnificent (and frightening) character.

Frayne McCarthy and Blair Thomson go into dangerous territory as they create a new musical called The Virgin Courtesan. In I'VE GOT IT, MAN. IT'S #*?#! AWESOME!, both of them tell us how the work comes together as they head to a first public performance.

In FOR THE CHILD TAKEN, FOR THE PARENT LEFT BEHIND Teesri Duniya artistic director Rahul Varma explains the weight of the company's next production - Where the Blood Mixes - and the journey both work and playwright took to bring a deeper piece to the stage.

Two very young artists describe the trials, tribulations and joys of mounting a production of The Breakfast Club in STORIES FROM THE DETENTION HALL by Dustin Kagan Fleming and Charley Hausknost.
The Breakfast Club

It is difficult to find new ways of presenting Shakespeare which also seem organic to the text. But Trevor Barrette and his young team saw into the fantastical aspects of The Tempest and decided to approach it through the prism of Victorian Futurism (gamers know this style as Steam Punk). Mr. Barrette takes you back stage as they prepare with his article TO ENTERTAIN AND ENLIGHTEN SHAKESPEARE ENTHUSIASTS AND NEWCOMERS ALIKE.

INTRODUCING METACHROMA is precisely what it says - an introduction of this exciting new company by its members and - have a look - the ensemble comprises some of the best actors in the country.

Emma McQueen writes about confronting a very male script and a very male cast and overcoming a series of obstacles towards mounting Callistro the Great in her piece IN THE BOYS' CLUB.

Ann-Marie Kerr began as the director and - when a happy miracle happened - ended up acting the solo role in The Debacle, which began its life in the Atlantic region but continued on to being a jewel of the Festival TransAmériques. In MUSICAL CHAIRS - MOVING FROM DIRECTOR TO ACTOR IN A SOLO SHOW, Ms. Kerr writes about the journey.

8 Ways My Mother Was Conceived was a gorgeous little Fringe play, last year in Montreal. However, playwright/soloist Michaela di Cesare took criticisms to heart and decided to improve her work and give it a new life. In FROM ONE-WOMAN SHOW (IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD) FRINGE SHOW TO TRUE TEAM EFFORT she tells us how.

Soprano Mary Dunleavy is THE BIG SOPRANO in Richard Burnett's profile of a singer from the yellow-rose state who is coming to Montreal to play Daisy (Marguerite, to be more francophone) in Gounod's masterpiece, Faust.

As Christian Cagigal was preparing his new show, he was asked again and again why he was not including something very personal and swore that he would not do it...but did WHEN THE ART WANTS TO BE SOMETHING ELSE...

In On collaborations, handling the spice and writing a Bollywood play à la Québécoise called Poutine Masala Stéfan Cédilot describes the happy and improbably series of events that went into making an extravaganza for one of Montreal's most popular alternative houses.

Trevor Barrette is a very young man who had music and a story and lyrics and, finally, a musical which needed a production house. In WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE IN LOVE? he talks about the genesis of To Be, his work, and the happy marriage he found with Persephone Productions.

In DRAMATURGY OF DISAPPOINTMENT writer Joseph Shragge writes about finding a path for his play, The Heretics of Bohemia, during the production's unusual rehearsal process. Think: puppets.

Richard Burnett flies over the career of Rob Roth, director of Beauty and the Best, in BROADWAY ROCKER. As Bugs tells us, "surreal" is the only way to describe his career.

In THE SOUL HAS MANY EMOTIONS, THE BODY ONE Singer/actor/star Ranee Lee tells of the journey of her life - the trip which brought her to the Centaur Theatre for Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel.

Truly one of the most sensitive of our writers, Rahul Varma nevertheless tackles the big issues and how they effect the small people tied up in them. In his first-person piece STATE OF DENIAL: IN MEMORIES OF GRANDMOTHERS WHO LIVED TO TELL he talks about the process of writing his latest play and the research - and real stories - he found.

Rick Miller, in a first-person article, does battle with THE CRITICS as he attempts to nurture new works and also to keep works which have proven popular (and which continue to grow) alive.

Paul Hopkins shares his actor's notes as he deals with the preparation of a world premiere production of Morris Panych's play in WITH-IN ABSENTIA. Hopkins notes detail the shifting foci of the rehearsal period.